Friday, 4 June 2010


The news hits the back pages and no doubt gladdens the hearts of many a United fan... Rafa Benitez has left  Anfield and Liverpool FC face an uncertain future of debt, team rebuilding and whether their tape of Gerry and the Pacemakers singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' will hold out for another season.
The fans are always the ones I feel the most sympathy with. The scousers are a devoted and vocal bunch who have had to pay their hard-earned money to watch their team collapse into mediocracy through foreign takeovers and dodgy transfers. Huge  wage bills and heavily-claused contracts which, with the exception of perhaps the 'big 4', are crippling the clubs financially. Benitez himself leaves the club with a £6m contract pay severence after a miserable season that came under scrutiny after finishing 7th in the premiership and making little progress in the Champions or Europa League. 
Rafa will be remembered for winning the Champions League in 2005 in a barmy night against AC Milan. Perhaps unfairly, the win was attributed more to Houllier's legacy and the inspirational Gerrard winning the cup rather than Benitez's managerial tactics and skill. For all that, and I'm speaking as a die-hard Man Utd fan, you had to marvel at Liverpool landing the big one after being 3-0 down. Rafa also managed to poach Fernando Torres, arguably one of the greatest strikers to grace the English Premier League and perhaps even developed Gerrard into an inspirational captain that drove the team on to win games that perhaps they'd have lost otherwise. Gerrard's patience was later to run with his manager this season it has to be said. His capture of Pepe Reina also proved a great buy when he now could ply his goalkeeping skills in any one of the top teams in Europe.  
Then there's Rafa's downfall... His truly awful signings. Luring Robbie Keane after he failed to land Garth Barry and then selling him back at a huge loss was hardly his greatest hour. Add to the list Lucas, Babel, Ngog, Voronin, Pennant and it's not great reading. Losing Alonso to Real left Liverpool vulnerable and they never seemed to recover. His zonal marking, his ill-advised post-match rantings and his at times, questionable substitutions were also the nails in his coffin. So, where next for Rafa? It has to be the Italian Serie A doesn't it? His stock value has probably gone down in the Spanish League and Serie A will probably suit his managerial style. The club itself are in debt and failing a miracle, I can't see them holding on to Torres, Gerrard, Mascherano, Benayoun or Reina. Barca, Jose, Sheik City or Chelski will be circling like vultures with their chequebooks at the ready.  
As for who will be the next manager? The fans are calling for Guus Hiddinck. Can't see Guus would fancy the prospect of a selling club, in debt and having a questionable attraction to the big players. O'Neill possibly, but he'd be leaving one American-owned club for another without too much chance of available funds. Hodgson doesn't travel well up North and his accent is better suited to West London.  
For me, Mark Hughes would be a great choice. He did a fine job at City rebuilding the club before the money came in for a quick fix. Players like him and want to play for him. Whether the fans will accept an ex-United stalwart is another matter...

There's always Ian Holloway, but we'd like him for just one bonkers season at the seaside if that's ok? And then there's Keegan - I'd love it if he went there...LOVE IT.


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